Smiles were had as the students of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School arrived at Garden Oaks American Legion Post 560 after a hike from school grounds. They hand delivered Valentine’s day cards to six veterans, while the veterans shared a small story about their time in the service.
This year was Post 560’s second annual Operation Valentines, which calls on local schools to, “make a handmade card, write a little message, so we can make a soldier smile,” the chair of Operation Valentines said.
Eight schools answered the call, including Garden Oaks Montessori, Alexander Hamilton Middle School, New Heights Christian Academy,
Northside High School, Oak Forest Elementary, John J. Pershing Middle School, Stevens Elementary, and St. Rose of Lima Catholic School. The other schools dropped off their Valentines previous to Operation Valentine’s day on January 31, but the Kids of St. Rose, being near Post 560, appreciated being able to bring a box full of handcrafted cards and meet the veterans.
“I’m honored, because not everyone could come,” one 8th grader said.
St. Rose ran a lottery to choose one student who would represent their class, from pre-school 4 to 8th grade and the kids were excited to have their name drawn. The school teaches the students to appreciate all that veterans have done for us, and to know that it’s an honor to meet them.
When the students arrived, everyone was smiling and from behind one kid was pulling a red wagon with a big box. The box was decorated with cut out pink hearts and it was filled all the way up with lovingly crafted cards. The kids began to hand out cards to each veteran, some eagerly digging through the box to find the one they made.
One high school students card read, “Your job is to fight for our country—my job is to love and support you. Thank you for being our hero.”
In attendance was World War II veteran, Bud Walker, who served in the U.S. Navy Pacific Theater and told the crowd about his time on a landing craft.
Korean War veteran Jesse “Chuck” Custard, who served in the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier of 6,000 men and 100 aircraft, made everyone laugh at a story about a care package his mother sent to him.
“My mother sent me a fruitcake, but because we moved around, by the time the fruitcake got to us it was three months old. We still enjoyed it,” Custard said.
Peggy Mondy also served during the Korean War in the U.S. Marine Corps by working in code, but soon chosen for publicity. She’d ride on floats and went to movies while in uniform, and soon she was dubbed, “Miss Beachhead” after the 1954 movie, Beachhead.
While doing a photoshoot with USMC mascot bull dog, Gunnery Sergeant Little Britches, Mondy told the kids how the dog made growling noises at her. Eventually, the dog decided to give her a chance and right before the photographer clicked a photo, the dog turned and licked her cheek from chin to temple.
“Out of all the photos the photographer took that day, guess which one they chose,” Mondy said.
The Korean War veteran, Robert “Bob” Weggemann, served in the U.S. Air Force overseas. Stationed 60 miles off the tip of Korea at a radar station, Weggemann was told, “you know you’re expendable,” the moment he arrived because if there was an attack, that station would be hit first. Luckily, nothing like that happened.
U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Richard Voorhies was there as well. He isn’t just a member of the post, but he is the 1st Vice Commander of Post 560 and the 8th District Commander of the American Legion.
Lastly, Josue Matamoros, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Bosnia gave the kids a few tips on sending care packages.
The American Legion, founded in 1919, and Post 560, founded in 1946, is a community centered Veterans Service Organization dedicated to helping other veteran organizations in the area, developing a strong sense of national pride in the youth, and advocating for a strong, efficient military.
As for the kids from St. Rose, they’re already devoting time to help veterans.
“I feel happy that these vets get to receive these Valentine’s; that they feel special,” a 5th grader said.
The Valentine’s day cards will also be delivered to the Veterans Hospital, Camp Hope, and the USO at Bush Intercontinental Airport.